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Poster: jerlouvis Date: Aug 11, 2011 8:53pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Keith's impact on the GD

I wonder what folks think about the many ways Keith's inclusion in the band changed the music.His personality,musical influences,instrument and so on drastically altered the landscape of the GD,seemingly from his first show the band was very different.How,why,how much,good,bad,etcetera?

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Poster: bkidwell Date: Aug 11, 2011 9:39pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Keith's impact on the GD

I think Keith really rekindled the band's commitment to exploratory jamming. We all know the band became more song focused and less jam focused from 70 to 71, with pre-keith 71 having a pretty moderate amount of free jamming and more predictable setlists in comparison to 68-69. As soon as Keith shows up in the fall the jams start to expand. Jerry really seemed to love a good keyboardist and having another melodic voice to interact with gave Jerry a more interesting environment.

I've stated several times I think 72-74 is even better than 68-70 and I would attribute that mostly to even more interesting improvisation, in which Keith has a really major role. Piano is my own instrument, and Keith in his early years with the band is absolutely astounding and inspiring to me. He does absolutely everything right, completely absorbing the style and sound of the band and enhancing both the straight-ahead songs and open improv.

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Poster: jerlouvis Date: Aug 11, 2011 10:01pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Keith's impact on the GD

I was hoping you would respond and possibly take some time to discuss the relationship of a piano to electric guitars and electric bass in the context of the style of music the GD were playing from 72'-74',and maybe also a few comments on his Fender Rhoades and keyboard abilities in the same era.

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Poster: bkidwell Date: Aug 11, 2011 10:21pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Keith's impact on the GD

I wish I had more articulate specific insight about Keith's style. There's a lot to be said about how keyboard instruments fit (and don't fit) with rock music in general, but that topic is "big" enough that it requires a really long post and it wouldn't necessarily illuminate Keith that much in particular.

I guess I can say that Keith was very good at the "percussive" style of playing (pounding chords in the midrange with accentuated rhythms) and the "decorative" style (filigree in the upper registers) as well as straightforward melodic work. His ability to find the right style and approach for every song and jam was just as important as his skill in picking "good notes" to play.

Keyboard instruments can "do more" than any other instrument in terms of complexity, but they are capable of much less expression on a single note. This means that the piano can rarely do anything that is immediately memorable and emotionally communicative in the manner of an electric guitar solo.

I don't have much in my memory banks that pertains to acoustic vs. electric piano other than acoustic seems to fit better with Americana/country and the Fender is utilized more for a jazzlike approach, which is about what you'd expect.

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Poster: jerlouvis Date: Aug 12, 2011 8:16am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Keith's impact on the GD

I thought the addition of a piano into the soundscape was as big a change as the person playing it.Having that bright,distinct sound added to the mix gave the music a more deliberate feel,less of that swirly,organ based wash of sound.It impacted all the styles the band played in,to the ballads such as Brokedown and Comes a Time it added a delicate accent that seemed to frame Jerry's voice and flesh out the song,on the rockers it ratcheted up that stompin' vibe and gave the songs another layer besides the 3 guitars,on the country stuff it lent a bounce and expansive sense that just made it more country.For the more complex,exploratory side of the bands catalog it just blew things wide open and completely changed the sound of the edgier music,the piano was every bit as psychedelic as the organ,but sonically very different,it forced the musicians to relate differently to create that trippy vibe without that sort of organ backbone.

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Poster: leftwinger57 Date: Aug 12, 2011 10:04am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Keith's impact on the GD

I think in relation to stong guitars that it for the most part a fill/augmenting instrument. This in no way is diminishing Keith's ability for I thought he was the most accomplished keyboard player that fit perfectly. I was partial to the real grand piano and not the electric Yamaha but the Fender Rhoades certainly fit for many songs.No synths here just good keys playing.

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Poster: AltheaRose Date: Aug 12, 2011 1:29am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Keith's impact on the GD

I'm curious about that, too; for me, it's kinda hard to tell, since it coincides with the one-drummer era when pushing in a jazzier, more improv direction seemed to be happening for all the reasons discussed in regards to Only Bill. But it does seem like the presence of Keith magnified that jazziness and improv focus while also being such a great fit for the folksier, natural, country-ish tunes ... I love his honky-tonk sound. Just the perfect synergy for that era.

The band talked later about being "hungry for color" and being limited by the piano as another percussion instrument, but I wonder if they'd have felt that way if (a) Keith hadn't declined so tragically, and (b) there hadn't been two drummers.

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Poster: reviewr Date: Aug 12, 2011 8:47pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Keith's impact on the GD

This does not answer the question, but... I'm listening to 2/24/74 right now and Keith is really "on". He is taking lead at times and is adding a lot.

BTW, good night for Bill too.

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Poster: Dudley Dead Date: Aug 12, 2011 7:47am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Keith's impact on the GD

The thing that is so great about him, is that he adds to all their material . Not just the jazzy/jammy stuff, but listen to those "Big RR Blues", and "JBG"s from those late 71 shows ! I think his understated sound was perfect for the group at that period ( as long as it is his playing, and not him being WAY down in the mix). The problems of integrating an acoustic piano into a loud Rock band have been mentioned . Also,keeping a piano in tune, on the road is no fun ! Sometimes I think him use of the electric piano was a practical, time saving decision, and not a musical one . Always like him on that baby grand, better that the electrics .
Because of the Beatles, and the electric guitar became the dominant instrument in Rock . But in the first generation , the piano had a much bigger place . Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Little Richard all soulful piano players . Piano has had an important place in many of the musics the Dead drew from , and it seemed Keith was able to draw from most of them himself .
Definitely a plus for the Dead's music .

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Aug 11, 2011 11:58pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Keith's impact on the GD

Too big a topic for me to chew on right now, so I'll be brief.

Before he was in the Dead, Keith had played piano in jazz trios in bars, "mostly cocktail standards like Misty," and a bit of country & Dixieland, but had never been interested in rock music. He wasn't into Chick Corea-type music, but listened more to Bill Evans. (He must've changed his mind by the time he was in the Dead!)

Bill Kreutzmann said, "I loved his playing. I remember when we auditioned him...Jerry and I threw him every curveball we could, but he was right on top of every improvised change. We just danced right along on top. That's when I knew he'd be great for the band. He was so inventive - he played some jazz stuff and free music that was just incredible."
Phil also gushes about Keith joining the band in his book. He's said, "He was so brilliant at the beginning. That guy had it all; he could play anything." "He was the perfect guy for our music at that time. It's like he came forth fully grown. He didn't have to work his way into it."
Manager Jon McIntire remembered when he first heard about Keith: "I saw Garcia and asked him what it was about, and he shook his head, very amazed, and said, 'Well, this guy came along and said he was our piano player. And he was.'"

In '71 he had this honky-tonk barroom style that fit right into what the Dead were doing; and his skill in jazz improv inspired them to go ever farther out in the jams. He filled in all the spaces so well, it was like he'd been playing with them all along. And with Mickey gone, the band now had a jazz drummer & jazz pianist, so it's little wonder their improvs started getting looser & jazzier.
He played a bit of organ sometimes, but generally stayed away from it. He got a Fender Rhodes in May '73 I think, and played that frequently over the next couple years. He also had a wah-wah pedal attached to his piano pickup, which you can hear sometimes in late '72 particularly.

There are a couple reasons he's been underrated in some quarters - for one, he was very subdued & withdrawn, in personality & often in playing as well, so he hardly ever takes the lead but tends to follow & support the guitarists. (Some folks like their keyboards more upfront.) Also, he mainly stuck to piano, which over time meant a lot of percussive chording & a narrower sonic range - the Dead themselves complained about that after he left, and were desperate for an organ player. And perhaps most importantly, he was a dull shadow of himself in '77-78 in Dead shows (though he apparently kept up the quality in JGB shows). The accounts of him offstage in that period are horrifying...of course, he wasn't alone in that....

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Poster: elbow1126 Date: Aug 12, 2011 11:06am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Keith's impact on the GD

I recall reading an interview with Bob about his slide guitar playing and he claimed that the reason he introduced it into the band's sound was that after Keith joined they lacked a "sustain" instrument and he (they?) felt that without an organ they needed something else to fill that space. Although he didn't really start playing with the Grateful Dead until there were two drummers. I don't know if this was that he was still learning to play and didn't feel comfortable adding it until '78 or that the need for a sustain instrument was becoming more apparent as Keith's presence was shrinking under the weight of the two drummers and all the drugs. So if you don't like his slide, blame Keith.

Me personally, I think the band was best with Keith, especially pre-break and it was what he brought more than the one drummer. The flair of his piano at the opening and closing of PITB during this era gives me goosebumps. I also think the difference between the summer and fall of '71 where there was no change in drummers, just keyboards is telling. Would all those songs we talked about yesterday that were introduced the same day as Keith (Jed, BEW Jack Straw, ROR and others like Comes a time, OMSN) have worked so well with Pig or an organ instead of Keith? Listen to what happened to NFA>GDTRFB during Oct and Nov of '71. I think Keith opened up things for the band that would not have happened if they stayed with Pig, regardless of how many drummers ware present. The fact that they had one drummer just made it that much easier for the change to happen.